Thomas Tod Stoddart
in a newly-discovered, ludic edition by
Vikseth O. Winebayne, Chief Historian
Noah Kevin Bitwyse, Treasurer
Ivan Whisk & B. E. Otney, Lectors
Ivy Anne Bethowski
Ethan Vinsky Bowie
Anneke Ivy Boswith
Evan Tobin Whiskey
Hestia Ivy Bonnkew
Kathie Yvonne Swib
Benny Wei Havistok
Ethan Wise & Ivy Bonk
Emeritus and Extraordinary:
Gawain Ypiski Beethoven
Avesta Yokewhip Begnini
Ivy O. E. Swithenbank
In 1873, my maternal great-grandmother abandoned Miss Birchwhip's finishing school in Chelsea for new duties as an ambassador's daughter in the wilds of the Ivory Coast. Lord Bannishe, recently appointed to the post by Her Majesty, little suspected that scandal would ensue. It is a testimony to his far-sightedness -- and indeed to the moral fibre of English manhood -- that the Crown was not, as a result of Ivy Bannishe's now-famous youthful indiscretion, drawn into war.
Her liason with the tribesman K'weto was short-lived, but it bore fruit. The first issue was Ivy's masterful treatise on games and gamesmanship in the story-telling of savage peoples. Like Desdemona, she had, "with a greedy ear / Devour'd up his discourse," but her passion was matched by her intellect, and the patterns she discerned in K'weto's tales formed the basis of modern Game Theory. The second issue of her scandalous union was my grandmother, a sickly infant who required much care and ensured that Ivy would spend her remaining days quietly, in the library of her ancestral home in Carmarthenshire.
It was there that Ivy Bannishe-K'weto made a lasting contribution to English letters, in the form of a series of text-theoretical essays and critical editions based on her own principles of ludic editing. Game theoreticians and literary scholars alike have her to thank for the happy convergeance of their fields. Last summer, fifty years after my great-grandmother's death, her papers were unsealed and this early edition of Stoddart's Death-Wake was discovered. It is printed here for the first time, and exhibits abridgement in keeping with the remarkable K'weto algorithm. Also evident is a classic example of the typographical cryptograms that so endeared my ancestress to Crowley and the Golden Dawn -- this time encoding an amphibian crucifixion ritual in a modified Baconian cipher. I am as proud to be Ivy Bannishe-K'weto's namesake as I am to offer her ludic edition, on behalf of the Trust, for publication by the Pataphysical Press.
Ivy O. E. Swithenbank
Heol y Cyw, South Wales
An anthem of a sister choristry!
And like a windward murmur of the sea,
O'er silver shells, so solemnly it falls!
A dying music shrouded in deep walls,
That bury its wild breathings! And the moon,
Of glow-worm hue, like virgin in sad swoon,
Lies coldly on the bosom of a cloud,
Until the elf-winds, that are wailing loud,
Do minister unto her sickly trance,
Fanning the life into her countenance;
And there are pale stars sparkling, far and few
In the deep chasms of everlasting blue,
Unmarshall'd and ungather'd, one and one,
Like outposts of the lunar garrison.
A train of holy fathers windeth by
The arches of an aged sanctuary,
With cowl, and scapular, and rosary,
On to the sainted oriel, where stood,
By the rich altar, a fair sisterhood—
A weeping group of virgins! one or two
Bent forward to a bier, of solemn hue,
Whereon a bright and stately coffin lay,
With its black pall flung over:—Agathè
Was on the lid—a name. And who?—No more!
'Twas only Agathè.
A lonely monk is loitering within
The dusky area, at the altar seen,
Like a pale spirit kneeling in the light
Of the cold moon, that looketh wan and white
Through the deviced oriel; and he lays
His hands upon his bosom, with a gaze
To the chill earth. He had the youthful look
Which heartfelt woe had wasted, and he shook
At every gust of the unholy breeze,
That enter'd through the time-worn crevices.
A score of summers only o'er his brow
Had pass'd—and it was summer, even now,
The one-and-twentieth—from a birth of tears,
Over a waste of melancholy years!
And that brow was as wan as if it were
Of snowy marble, and the raven hair
That would have cluster'd over, was all shorn,
And his fine features stricken pale as morn.
And who was he? A monk. And those who knew,
Yclept him Julio; but they were few:
And others named him as a nameless one,—
A dark, sad-hearted being, who had none
But bitter feelings, and a cast of sadness,
That fed the wildest of all curses—madness!
Oh! he was wearied of this passing scene!
But loved not death: his purpose was between
Life and the grave; and it would vibrate there,
Like a wild bird that floated far and fair
Betwixt the sun and sea!
He went, and came,
And thought, and slept, and still awoke the same,—
A strange, strange youth; and he would look all night
Upon the moon and stars, and count the flight
Of the sea waves, and let the evening wind
Play with his raven tresses, or would bind
Grottoes of birch, wherein to sit and sing:
And peasant girls would find him sauntering,
To gaze upon their features, as they met,
In laughter, under some green arboret.
At last, he became monk, and, on his knees,
Said holy prayers, and with wild penances
Made sad atonement; and the solemn whim,
That, like a shadow, loiter'd over him,
Wore off, even like a shadow. He was cursed
With none of the mad thoughts that were at first
The poison of his quiet; but he grew
To love the world and its wild laughter too,
As he had known before; and wish'd again
To join the very mirth he hated then!
He durst not break the vow—he durst not be
The one he would—and his heart's harmony
Became a tide of sorrow. Even so,
He felt hope die,—in madness and in woe!
But there came one—and a most lovely one
As ever to the warm light of the sun
Threw back her tresses,—a fair sister girl,
With a brow changing between snow and pearl,
And the blue eyes of sadness, fill'd with dew
Of tears,—like Heaven's own melancholy blue,—
So beautiful, so tender; and her form
Was graceful as a rainbow in a storm,
Scattering gladness on the face of sorrow—
Oh! I had fancied of the hues that borrow
Their brightness from the sun; but she was bright
In her own self,—a mystery of light!
And this was Agathè, young Agathè,
A motherless, fair girl: and many a day
She wept for her lost parent. It was sad
Almost to think she might again be glad,
Her beauty was so chaste, amid the fall
Of her bright tears. Yet, in her father's hall,
She had lived almost sorrowless her days:
But he felt no affection for the gaze
Of his fair girl; and when she fondly smiled,
He bade no father's welcome to the child,
But even told his wish, and will'd it done,
For her to be sad-hearted—and a nun!
And so it was. She took the dreary veil,
A hopeless girl! and the bright flush grew pale
Upon her cheek: she felt, as summer feels
The winds of autumn and the winter chills,
That darken his fair suns.—It was away,
Feeding on dreams, the heart of Agathè!
The vesper prayers were said, and the last hymn
Sung to the Holy Virgin. In the dim,
Gray aisle was heard a solitary tread,
As of one musing sadly on the dead—
'Twas Julio; it was his wont to be
Often alone within the sanctuary;
But now, not so—another: it was she!
Kneeling in all her beauty, like a saint
Before a crucifix; but sad and faint
The tone of her devotion, as the trill
Of a moss-burden'd, melancholy rill.
And Julio stood before her;—'twas as yet
The hour of the pale twilight—and they met
Each other's gaze, till either seem'd the hue
Of deepest crimson; but the ladye threw
Her veil above her features, and stole by
Like a bright cloud, with sadness and a sigh!
And she was gone:—yet they met many a time
In the lone chapel, after vesper chime—
They met in love and fear.
One weary day,
And Julio saw not his loved Agathè;
She was not in the choir of sisterhood
That sang the evening anthem, and he stood
Like one that listen'd breathlessly awhile;
But stranger voices chanted through the aisle.
It was the third sad eve, he heard it said,
"Poor Julio! thy Agathè is dead."
She died, like zephyr falling amid flowers!
Like to a star within the twilight hours
Of morning—and she was not! Some have thought
The Lady Abbess gave her a mad draught,
That stole into her heart, and sadly rent
The fine chords of that holy instrument,
Until its music falter'd fast away,
And she—she died,—the lovely Agathè!
Again, and through the arras of the gloom
Are the pale breezes moaning: by her tomb
Bends Julio, like a phantom, and his eye
Is fallen, as the moon-borne tides, that lie
At ebb within the sea. Oh! he is wan,
As winter skies are wan, like ages gone,
And stars unseen for paleness; it is cast,
As foliage in the raving of the blast,
All his fair bloom of thoughts! Is the moon chill,
That in the dark clouds she is mantled still?
And over its proud arch hath Heaven flung
A scarf of darkness? Agathè was young!
He wields a heavy mattock in his hands,
And over him a lonely lanthorn stands
On a near niche, shedding a sickly fall
Of light upon a marble pedestal,
Whereon is chisel'd rudely, the essay
Of untaught tool, "Hic jacet Agathè!"
And Julio hath bent him down in speed,
Like one that doeth an unholy deed.
And he is flinging the dark, chilly mould
Over the gorgeous pavement: 'tis a cold,
Sad grave, and there is many a relic there
Of chalky bones, which, in the wasting air,
Fell mouldering away; and he would dash
His mattock through them, with a cursed clash,
That made the lone aisle echo. But anon
He fell upon a skull,—a haggard one,
With its teeth set, and the great orbless eye
Revolving darkness, like eternity—
And in his hand he held it, till it grew
To have the fleshy features and the hue
Of life. He gazed, and gazed, and it became
Like to his Agathè—all, all the same!
He drew it nearer,—the cold, bony thing!—
To kiss the worm-wet lips. "Ay! let me cling—
Cling to thee now, for ever!" but a breath
Of rank corruption from its jaws of death
Went to his nostrils, and he madly laugh'd,
And dash'd it over on the altar shaft,
Which the new risen moon, in her gray light,
Had fondly flooded, beautifully bright!
And there she is; and Julio bends o'er
The sleeping girl,—a willow on the shore
Of a Dead Sea! that steepeth its far bough
Into the bitter waters,—even now
Taking a foretaste of the awful trance
That was to pass on his own countenance!
Yes! yes! and he is holding his pale lips
Over her brow; the shade of an eclipse
Is passing to his heart, and to his eye,
That is not tearful; but the light will die,
Leaving it like a moon within a mist,—
The vision of a spell-bound visionist!
He breathed a cold kiss on her ashy cheek,
That left no trace—no flush—no crimson streak,
But was as bloodless as a marble stone,
Susceptible of silent waste alone.
And on her brow a crucifix he laid—
A jewel'd crucifix, the virgin maid
Had given him before she died. The moon
Shed light upon her visage—clouded soon,
Then briefly breaking from its airy veil,
Like warrior lifting up his aventayle.
The heavy bell toll'd two, and, as it toll'd,
Julio started, and the fresh-turn'd mould
He flung into the empty chasm with speed,
And o'er it dropt the flagstone. One could read
That Agathè lay there; but still the girl
Lay by him, like a precious and pale pearl,
That from the deep sea-waters had been rent—
Like a star fallen from the firmament!
He is away—and still the sickly lamp
Is burning next the altar; there's a damp,
Thin mould upon the pavement; and, at morn,
The monks do cross them in their blessed scorn,
And mutter deep anathemas, because
Of the unholy sacrilege, that was
Within the sainted chapel,—for they guess'd,
By many a vestige sad, how the dark rest
Of Agathè was broken,—and anon
They sought for Julio. The summer sun
Arose and set, with his imperial disc
Toward the ocean-waters, heaving brisk
Before the winds,—but Julio came never:
He that was frantic as a foaming river—
Mad as the fall of leaves upon the tide
Of a great tempest, that hath fought and died
Along the forest ramparts, and doth still
In its death-struggle desperately reel
Round with the fallen foliage—he was gone,
And none knew whither. Still were chanted on
Sad masses, by pale sisters, many a day,
And holy requiems sung for Agathè!
A curse! a curse! the beautiful pale wing
Of a sea-bird was worn with wandering,
And, on a sunny rock beside the shore,
It stood, the golden waters gazing o'er;
And they were heaving a brown amber flow
Of weeds, that glitter'd gloriously below.
It was the sunset, and the gorgeous hall
Of heaven rose up on pillars magical
Of living silver, shafting the fair sky
Between dark time and great eternity.
They rose upon their pedestal of sun,
A line of snowy columns! and anon
Were lost in the rich tracery of cloud
That hung along, magnificently proud,
Predicting the pure star-light, that beyond
The east was armouring in diamond
About the camp of twilight, and was soon
To marshal under the fair champion moon,
That call'd her chariot of unearthly mist,
Toward her citadel of amethyst.
A curse! a curse! a lonely man is there
By the deep waters, with a burden fair
Clasp'd in his wearied arms—'Tis he; 'tis he
The brain-struck Julio, and Agathè!
His cowl is back—flung back upon the breeze,
His lofty brow is haggard with disease,
As if a wild libation had been pour'd
Of lightning on those temples, and they shower'd
A dismal perspiration, like a rain,
Shook by the thunder and the hurricane!
He dropt upon a rock, and by him placed,
Over a bed of sea-pinks growing waste,
The silent ladye, and he mutter'd wild,
Strange words, about a mother, and no child.
"And I shall wed thee, Agathè! although
Ours be no God-blest bridal—even so!"
And from the sand he took a silver shell,
That had been wasted by the fall and swell
Of many a moon-borne tide into a ring—
A rude, rude ring; it was a snow-white thing,
Where a lone hermit limpet slept and died,
In ages far away. "Thou art a bride,
Sweet Agathè! Wake up; we must not linger."
He press'd the ring upon her chilly finger,
And to the sea-bird, on its sunny stone,
Shouted, "Pale priest! that liest all alone
Upon thy ocean altar, rise away
To our glad bridal!" and its wings of gray
All lazily it spread, and hover'd by
With a wild shriek—a melancholy cry!
Then swooping slowly o'er the heaving breast
Of the blue ocean, vanish'd in the west.
He lifted the dead girl, and is away
To where a light boat, in its moorings lay,
Like a sea-cradle, rocking to the hush
Of the nurse waters. With a frantic rush
O'er the wild field of tangles he hath sped,
And through the shoaling waves that fell and fled
Upon the furrow'd beach.
Fast, fast, and far away, the bark hath stood
Out toward the great heaving solitude,
That gurgled in its deeps, as if the breath
Went through its lungs, of agony and death!
And She is there, that is a pyramid
Whereon the stars, the statues of the dead,
Are imaged over the eternal hall,
A group of radiances majestical!
And Julio looks up, and there they be,
And Agathè, and all the waste of Sea,
That slept in wizard slumber, with a shroud
Of night flung o'er his bosom, throbbing proud
Amid its azure pulses; and again
He dropt his blighted eye-orbs, with a strain
Of mirth upon the ladye:—"Agathè!
Sweet bride! be thou a queen, and I will lay
A crown of sea-weed on thy royal brow;
And I will twine these tresses, that are now
Floating beside me, to a diadem;
And the sea foam will sprinkle gem on gem,
And so will the soft dews. Be thou the queen
Of the unpeopled waters, sadly seen
By star-light, till the yet unrisen moon
Issue, unveiled, from her anderoon,
To bathe in the sea fountains: let me say,
Hail—hail to thee! thrice hail, my Agathè!"
The warrior world was lifting to the bent
Of his eternal brow magnificent,
The fiery moon, that in her blazonry
Shone eastward, like a shield. The throbbing sea
Felt fever on his azure arteries,
That shadow'd them with crimson, while the breeze
Fell faster on the solitary sail.
But the red moon grew loftier and pale,
And the great ocean, like the holy hall,
Where slept a seraph host maritimal,
Was gorgeous, with wings of diamond
Fann'd over it, and millions beyond
Of tiny waves were playing to and fro,
All musical, with an incessant flow
Of cadences, innumerably heard
Between the shrill notes of a hermit bird,
That held a solemn paean to the moon.
A sail! awake thee, Julio! a sail!
And be not bending to thy trances pale.
But he is gazing on the moonlit brow
Of his dead Agathè, and fondly now,
The light is silvering her bloodless face
And the cold grave-clothes. There is loveliness
As in a marble image, very bright!
But stricken with a phantasy of light
That is not given to the mortal hue,
To life and breathing beauty: and she too
Is more of the expressless lineament,
Than of the golden thoughts that came and went
Over her features, like a living tide
No while before.
A sail is on the wide
And moving waters, and it draweth nigh
Like a sea-cloud. The elfin billows fly
Before it, in their armories enthrall'd
Of radiant and moon-breasted emerald;
And many is the mariner that sees
The lone boat in the melancholy breeze,
Waving her snowy canvass, and anon
Their stately vessel with a gallant run
Crowds by in all her glory; but the cheer
Of men is pass'd into a sudden fear,
And whisperings, and shakings of the head.—
The moon was streaming on a virgin dead,
And Julio sat over her insane,
Like a sea demon! O'er and o'er again,
Each cross'd him, as the stately vessel stood
Far out into the murmuring solitude!
He lifts her in his arms, and, o'er and o'er,
Upon the brow of chilliness and hoar,
Repeats a silent kiss;—along the side
Of the lone bark, he leans that pallid bride,
Until the waves do image her within
Their bosom, like a spectre—'Tis a sin
Too deadly to be shadow'd or forgiven,
To do such mockery in the sight of Heaven!
And bid her gaze into the startled sea,
And say, "Thy image, from eternity,
Hath come to meet thee, ladye!" and anon,
He bade the cold corse kiss the shadowy one,
That shook amid the waters, like the light
Of borealis in a winter night!
And after, he did strain her sea-wet hair
Between his chilly fingers, with a stare
Of mystery, that marvell'd how that she
Had drench'd it so amid the moonlit sea.
Fast as a meteor star, the lonely bark:
And Julio bent over to the dark,
The solitary sea, for close beside
Floated the stringed harp of one that died
In some wild shipwreck, and he drew it home,
With madness, to his bosom: the white foam
Was o'er its strings; and on the streaming sail
He wiped them, running, with his fingers pale,
Along the tuneless notes, that only gave
Seldom responses to his wandering stave!
And Julio placed the trembling harp before
The ladye, till the minstrel winds came o'er
Its moisten'd strings, and tuned them with a sigh.
"I hear thee, how thy spirit goeth by,
In music and in love. Oh Agathè!”
Shower soft light, ye stars, that shake the dew
From your eternal blossoms! and thou, too,
Moon! minded of thy power, tide-bearing queen!
That hast a slave and votary within
The great rock-fetter'd deeps, and hearest cry
To thee the hungry surges, rushing by
Like a vast herd of wolves,—fall full and fair
On Julio as he sleepeth, even there,
Amid the suppliant bosom of the sea!
A wide, wide sea! And on its rear and van
Amid the stars, the silent meteors ran
All that still night, and Julio with a cry
Woke up, and saw them flashing fiercely by.
Full three times three, its awful veil of night
Hath Heaven hung before the blessed light;
And a fair breeze falls o'er the sleeping sea,
Where Julio is watching Agathè!
By sun and darkness hath he bent him over—
A mad, moon-stricken, melancholy lover!
The ladye, she hath lost the pearly hue
Upon her gorgeous brow, where tresses grew
Luxuriantly as thoughts of tenderness,
That once were floating in the pure recess
Of her bright soul. These are not as they were,
But are as weeds above a sepulchre,
Wild waving in the breeze: her eyes are now
Sunk deeply under the discolour'd brow,
That is of sickly yellow, and pale blue,
Unnaturally blending. The same hue
Is on her cheek: it is the early breath
Of cold Corruption, the ban dog of Death,
Falling upon her features.—Let it be,
And gaze awhile on Julio, as he
Is gazing on the corse of Agathè!
In truth, he seemeth like no living one,
But is the image of a skeleton:
A fearful portrait from the artist tool
Of Madness—terrible and wonderful!
There was no passion there—no feeling traced
Under those eyelids, where had run to waste,
All that was wild, or beautiful, or bright;
A very cloud was cast upon their light,
That gave to them the heavy hue of lead;
And they were lorn, and lustreless, and dead!
“But I will take me Agathè upon
This sorrowful, sore bosom, and anon,
Down, down, through azure silence, we shall go,
Unepitaph'd, to cities far below;
Where the sea triton, with his winding shell,
Shall sound our blessed welcome. We shall dwell
With many a mariner in his pearly home,
In bowers of amber weed and silver foam,
Amid the crimson corals; we shall be
Together, Agathè! fair Agathè!—
But thou art sickly, ladye—thou art sad;
And I am weary, ladye—I am mad!
Methinks that I shall meet thee far away,
Within the awful centre of the earth,
Where, earliest, we had our holy birth—
In some huge cavern, arching wide below,
Upon whose airy pivot, years ago,
The world went round: 'tis infinitely deep,
But never dismal; for above it sleep,
And under it, blue waters, hung aloof,
And held below,—an amethystine roof,
A sapphire pavement; and the golden sun,
Afar, looks through alternately, like one
That watches round some treasure: often, too,
Through many a mile of ocean, sparkling through,
Are seen the stars and moon, all gloriously,
Bathing their angel brilliance in the sea!
"And there are shafted pillars, that beyond,
Are ranged before a rock of diamond,
Awfully heaving its eternal heights,
From base of silver strewn with chrysolites;
And over it are chasms of glory seen,
With crimson rubies clustering between,
On sward of emerald, with leaves of pearl,
And topazes hung brilliantly on beryl.
So Agathè!—but thou art sickly sad,
And tellest me, poor Julio is mad—
All curse me!—Oh! that I were never, never!—
Or but a breathless fancy, that was ever
Adrift upon the wilderness of Time,
That knew no impulse, but was left sublime
To play at its own will!—that I were hush'd
At night by silver cataracts, that gush'd
Through flowers of fairy hue, and then to die
Away, with all before me passing by,
Like a fair vision I had lived to see,
And died to see no more!—It cannot be!
By this right hand! I feel it is not so,
And by the beating of a heart below,
That strangely feareth for eternity!"
The bark is drifting through the surf, beside
Its rocks of gray upon the coming tide;
And lightly is it stranded on a shore
Of pure and silver shells, that lie before,
Glittering in the glory of the sun;
And Julio hath landed him, like one
That aileth of some wild and weary pest;
And Agathè is folded on his breast,—
A faded flower! with all the vernal dews
From its bright blossom shaken, and the hues
Become as colourless as twilight air—
I marvel much, that she was ever fair!
Ay! to the rocks! and thou wilt see, I wist,
A lonely one, that bendeth in the mist
Of moonlight, with a wild and raven pall
Flung round him. Is he mortal man at all?
For, by the meagre fire-light that is under
Those eyelids, and the vizor shade of wonder
Falling upon his features, I would guess,
Of one that wanders out of blessedness!
Ah me! but this is never the fair girl,
With brow of light, as lovely as a pearl,
That was as beautiful as is the form
Of sea-bird at the breaking of a storm.
The eye is open, with convulsive strain—
A most unfleshly orb! the stars that wane
Have nothing of its hue; for it is cast
With sickly blood, and terribly aghast!
And sunken in its socket, like the light
Of a red taper in the lonely night!
And there is not a braid of her bright hair
But lieth floating in the moonlight air,
Like the long moss, beside a silver spring,
In elfin tresses, sadly murmuring.
The worm hath 'gan to crawl upon her brow—
The living worm! and with a ripple now,
Like that upon the sea, are heard below,
The slimy swarms all ravening as they go,
Amid the stagnate vitals, with a rush;
And one might hear them echoing the hush
Of Julio, as he watches by the side
Of the dead ladye, his betrothed bride!
And, ever and anon, a yellow group
Was creeping on her bosom, like a troop
Of stars, far up amid the galaxy,
Pale, pale, as snowy showers; and two or three
Were mocking the cold finger, round and round,
With likeness of a ring; and, as they wound
About its bony girth, they had the hue
Of pearly jewels glistering in dew.
That deathly stare! it is an awful thing
To gaze upon; and sickly thoughts will spring
Before it to the heart: it telleth how
There must be waste where there is beauty now.
There is a cave upon that isle—a cave
Where dwelt a hermit man; the winter wave
Roll'd to its entrance, casting a bright mound
Of snowy shells and fairy pebbles round;
And over were the solemn ridges strewn
Of a dark rock, that, like the wizard throne
Of some sea-monarch, stood, and from it hung
Wild thorn and bramble, in confusion flung
Amid the startling crevices—like sky,
Through gloom of clouds, that sweep in thunder by.
And there he is, his hoary beard adrift
To the night winds, that sportingly do lift
Its snow-white tresses; and he leaneth on
A rugged staff, all weakly and alone,
A childless, friendless man!
"Father! thy hand upon this brow of mine,
And tell me, is it cold?—But she will twine
No wreath upon these temples,—never, never!
For there she lieth, like a streamless river
That stagnates in its bed. Feel, feel me, here,
If I be madly throbbing in the fear
For that cold slimy worm. Ay! look and see
How dotingly it feeds, how pleasantly!
And where it is, have been the living hues
Of beauty, purer than the very dews.
“Come, come, and fold
Me round, ye hydra billows! wrapt in gold,
That are so writhing your eternal gyres
Before the moon, which, with a myriad tiars
Is crowning you, as ye do fall and kiss
Her pearly feet, that glide in blessedness!
Let me be torture-eaten, ere I die!
Let me be mangled sore with agony!
And be so cursed, so stricken by the spell
Of my heart's frenzy, that a living hell
Be burning there!—Back! back! if thou art mad—
Methought thou wast, but thou art only sad.
Is this thy child, old man? look, look, and see!
In truth it is a piteous thing for thee
To become childless—Well-a-well, go by!
Is there no grave? The quiet sea is nigh,
And I will bury her below the moon;
It may be but a trance or midnight swoon,
And she may wake. Wake, ladye! ha! methought
It was like her—Like her! and is it not?
My angel girl! my brain, my stricken brain!—
I know thee now!—I know myself again."
He saith, he saith,
And, on the jaundiced bosom of the corse,
Lieth all frenzied; one would see Remorse,
And hopeless Love, and Hatred, struggling there,
And Lunacy, that lightens up Despair,
And makes a gladness out of agony.
Pale phantom! I would fear and worship thee,
That hast the soul at will, and gives it play,
Amid the wildest fancies far away;
That thronest Reason, on some wizard throne
Of fairy land, within the milky zone,—
Some spectre star, that glittereth beyond
The glorious galaxies of diamond.
Fair Lunacy! I see thee, with a crown
Of hawthorn and sweet daisies, bending down
To mirror thy young image in a spring;
And thou wilt kiss that shadow of a thing
As soul-less as thyself. 'Tis tender, too,
The smile that meeteth thine! the holy hue
Of health! the pearly radiance of the brow!
All, all as tender—beautiful as thou!
But say, is Melancholy by thy side,
With tresses in a raven shower, that hide
Her pale and weeping features? Is she never
Flowing before thee, like a gloomy river,
The sister of thyself? but cold and chill,
And winter-born, and sorrowfully still,
And not like thee, that art in merry mood,
And frolicksome amid thy solitude?
Thou poetess! that harpest to the moon,
And, in soft concert to the silver tune
Of waters, play'd on by the magic wind,
As he comes streaming, with his hair untwined,
Dost sing light strains of melody and mirth,—
I hear thee, hymning on thy holy birth,
How thou wert moulded of thy mother Love,
That came, like seraph, from the stars above,
And was so sadly wedded unto Sin,
That thou wert born, and Sorrow was thy twin.
Sorrow and mirthful Lunacy! that be
Together link'd for time, I deem of ye
That ye are worshipp'd as none others are,—
One as a lonely shadow, one a star!
Is Julio glad, that bendeth, even now,
To his wild purpose, to his holy vow?
He seeth only in his ladye-bride
The image of the laughing girl, that died
A moon before— and, as he kiss'd
Her wormy lips, he felt that he was blest!
He felt her holy being stealing through
His own, like fountains of the azure dew,
That summer mingles with his golden light;
And he would clasp her, till the weary night,
Was worn away.
And morning rose in form
Of heavy clouds, that knitted into storm
The brow of Heaven, and through her lips the wind
Came rolling westward, with a track behind
Of gloomy billows, bursting on the sea,
All rampant, like great lions terribly,
And gnashing on each other: and anon,
Julio heard them, rushing one by one,
And laugh'd and turn'd.—The hermit was away,
For he was old and weary, and he lay
Within his cave, and thought it was a dream,
A summer's dream! and so the quiet stream
Of sleep came o'er his eyelids, and in truth
He dreamt of that strange ladye, and the youth
That held a death-wake on her wasting form;
And so he slept and woke not, till the storm
And Julio heard and laugh'd, "Shall I be king
To your great hosts, ye that are murmuring
For one to bear you to your holy war?
There is no sun, or moon, or any star,
To guide your iron footsteps as ye go;
But I, your king, will marshal you to flow
From shore to shore. Then bring my car of shell,
That I may ride before you terrible;
And bring my sceptre of the amber weed,
And Agathè, my virgin bride, shall lead
Your summer hosts, when these are ambling low,
In azure and in ermine, to and fro."
He said, and madly, with his wasted hand,
Swept o'er the tuneless harp, and fast he spann'd
The silver chords, until a rush of sound
Came from them, solemn—terrible—profound.
It comes! it comes! the tide, the rolling tide!
But Julio is bending to his bride,
And making mirthful whispers to her ear.
A cataract! a cataract is near,
Of one stupendous billow, and it breaks
Terribly furious, with a myriad flakes
Of foam, that fly about the haggard twain;
And Julio started, with a sudden pain,
That shot into his heart; his reason flew
Back to its throne; he rose, and wildly threw
His matted tresses over on his brow.
And so he died, his bosom fondly set
On her's; and round her clay-cold waist were met
His bare and wither'd arms, and to her brow
His lips were press'd. Both, both are perish'd now!
He died upon her bosom in a swoon;
And fancied of the pale and silver moon,
That went before him in her hall of blue:
He died like golden insect in the dew,
Calm, calm, and pure; and not a chord was rung
In his deep heart, but love. He perish'd young,
But perish'd, wasted by some fatal flame
That fed upon his vitals; and there came
Lunacy sweeping lightly, like a stream,
Along his brain—He perish'd in a dream!
The sun broke through his dungeon long enthrall'd
By dismal cloud, and on the emerald
Of the great living sea was blazing down,
To gift the lordly billows with a crown
Of diamond and silver. From his cave
The hermit came, and by the dying wave
Lone wander'd, and he found upon the sand,
Below a truss of sea-weed, with his hand
Around the silent waist of Agathè,
The corse of Julio! Pale, pale, it lay
Beside the wasted girl. The fireless eye
Was open, and a jewell'd rosary
Hung round the neck; but it was gone,—the cross
That Agathè had given.
Amid the moss,
The hermit scoop'd a solitary grave
Below the pine-trees, and he sang a stave,
Or two, or three, of some old requiem
As in their narrow home he buried them.
And many a day, before that blessed spot
He sate, in lone and melancholy thought,
Gazing upon the grave; and one had guess'd
Of some dark secret shadowing his breast.
And he is wandering by the shore again,
Hard leaning on his staff; the azure main
Lies sleeping far before him, with his seas
Fast folded in the bosom of the breeze,
That like the angel Peace hath dropt his wings
Around the warring waters. Sadly sings
To his own heart that lonely hermit man,
A tale of other days, when passion ran
Along his pulses, like a troubled stream,
And glory was a splendour, and a dream!
He stoop'd to gather up a shining gem,
That lay amid the shells, as bright as them,—
It was a cross, the cross that Agathè
Had given to her Julio: the play
Of the fierce sunbeams fell upon its face,
And on the glistering jewels—But the trace
Of some old thought came burning to the brain
Of the pale hermit, and he shrunk in pain
Before the holy symbol. It was not
Because of the eternal ransom wrought
In ages far away, or he had bent
In pure devotion sad and reverent;
But now, he started, as he look'd upon
That jewell'd thing, and wildly he is gone
Back to the mossy grave, away, away:—
"My child! my child! my own, own Agathè!"
And now the truth had flash'd into his brain:
And he is fallen, with a shriek of pain,
Upon the lap of pale and yellow moss;
For long ago he gave that blessed cross
To his fair girl, and knew the relic still,
By many a thousand thoughts, that rose at will
Before it, of the one that was not now,
But, like a dream, had floated from the brow
Of Time, that seeth many a lovely thing
Fade by him, like a sea-wave murmuring.
The heart is burst!—the heart that stood in steel
To woman's earnest tears, and bade her feel
The curse of virgin solitude,—a veil;
And saw the gladsome features growing pale
Unmoved: 'tis rent, like some eternal tower
The sea hath shaken, and its stately power
Lies lonely, fallen, scatter'd on the shore:
'Tis rent, like some great mountain, that, before
The Deluge, stood in glory and in might,
But now is lightning-riven, and the night
Is clambering up its sides, and chasms lie strewn,
Like coffins, here and there: 'tis rent! the throne
Where passions, in their awful anarchy,
Stood sceptred! There was heard an inward sigh,
That took the being, on its troubled wings,
Far to the land of dim imaginings!
All three are dead; that desolate green isle
Is only peopled by the passing smile
Of sun and moon, that surely have a sense,
They look so radiant with intelligence,—
So like the soul's own element,—so fair!
The features of a God lie veiled there!
And mariners that have been toiling far
Upon the deep, and lost the polar star,
Have visited that island, and have seen
That lover's grave: and many there have been
That sat upon the gray and crumbling stone,
And started, as they saw a skeleton
Amid the long sad moss, that fondly grew
Through the white wasted ribs; but never knew
Of those who slept below, or of the tale
Of that brain-stricken man, that felt the pale
And wandering moonlight steal his soul away,—
Poor Julio, and the ladye Agathè!